Susan Philipsz: SURROUND ME

A Song Cycle for the City of London
Saturdays & Sundays
9 October 2010 - 2 January 2011

Change Alley / London Bridge / Mark Lane / Milk Street / Moorfields Highwalk / Tokenhouse Yard

A walkway A walkway in The City of London. Photograph by Julian Abrams

"Things… made truly Musicall with Art by my correction, and yet plaine, and capable with ease, by my direction." Composer Thomas Ravenscroft, from Deutoromelia, 1609

At the weekends an eerie quiet descends on the City of London, in offices, squares, churchyards and streets, broken by the occasional sound of traffic and church bells. The silence of the city inspired artist Susan Philipsz’s first commission in the capital. Her unaccompanied voice resonated through empty streets around the Bank of England, across postwar walkways and medieval alleyways and along the banks of the River Thames.

SURROUND ME: A Song Cycle for the City of London took inspiration from the heightened presence of the human voice in Elizabethan London. To be heard over one another a natural order and harmony evolved in the cries of the street traders which enthused composers of popular song such as Thomas Ravenscroft to write canons where one voice follows the other in a round. Another popular song form for several voices, the madrigal emerged in Italy in the 16th Century and soon travelled to England where it flowered as the English Madrigal School.

SURROUND ME embraced the vocal traditions of the City of London connecting themes of love and loss with those of fluidity, circulation and immersion; the flood of tears, the swelling tide and the ebb and flow of the river, to convey a poignant sense of absence and loss in the contemporary City of London.

This project was supported by Arts Council England, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.